Pragmatic Considerations for Implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Contradictions and Necessities within the Earth System
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The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have influentially focused the international development community around common goals including poverty and hunger eradication, health, education and gender equality, since 2000. Come 2015 and their expiration, such focus has a chance to be maintained and redirected by a new sustainability framework, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to improve upon MDG limitations, and to incorporate the needs of the Earth System in the global agenda. Responding to increasing climate change and global inequality, the SDGs will play a key role in directing the global system down an equitable and sustainable path. Appropriately, the SDGs plan to implement sustainable development objectives alongside their human development goals. Such framework should incorporate the effects of climate change and need for sustainable development into its tenets, and must strive to help world actors place human development strategies, such as poverty, hunger, education and equality, within the natural Earth System. According to the literature, poverty eradication should remain the ultimate focus of the SDGs. This study questions such assertion however, and instead prescribes a focus on the systemic nature of global poverty, its core components, and its place within the Earth System, rather than on rich-help-poor development. Additionally, because climate change in the Anthropocene can no longer be ignored, the needs of the natural Earth System must be considered on at least the same level as poverty reduction in the SDGs.First-hand research experience at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) into the SDG processes and transformational finance possibilities provides the basis for this study s look into pragmatic SDG implementation. Comprehensive text analysis of UN documents covering the MDG and SDG processes, environmental and social theory and sustainable development research, helps to identify the necessary strategies for successful and beneficial SDG implementation. Further incorporating the interacting dimensions of social, economic and environmental systems, improving a global governance partnership, reducing inequalities, and bettering the international financial system are main initiatives for SDG implementation. Combining these considerations, this study proposes an original model for pragmatic SDG implementation within the Earth System. Recognizing the importance of such model, and supporting its realization for the SDGs, this study also questions whether it is enough. Springing from the legacy of the MDGs, the SDGs must seek to disassociate economic progress from development progress. They must comprehend that the global economic system is the root of poverty and inequality across nations, and that the same very economy is destroying the future of the planet s existence. Asserting that all such considerations must be integrated fully in the nested conceptualization of the Earth System economy within society, within Earth s natural systems this study declares that the SDGs will not be enough to achieve transformational sustainable development. They do however, if implemented pragmatically across economic, social and environmental systems, present an opportunity to take a step in the right direction.